Because a large part of the job for any casino employee is to watch for cheating, the life for a professional cheat is never going to be an easy one. However, what many punters will find most amazing is that – contrary to popular belief – the worst that will happen if caught (in Britain, anyway) is that cheats might be reported to the police. More likely is they’ll be politely asked to refrain from their activities, and persisting will simply get them barred. Below are the top five blags casinos watch out for:
Drop-box fishing is when a small group of players use thin metal tongs to try to fish out the roulette table’s drop-box bank notes that the dealer has previously shoved into it. One member of the gang will push as close up to the dealer as possible, apparently trying to place his chips all around zero and the splits, while a female member of the crew will, using her handbag as a screen, go ‘fishing’. It sounds stupid – it seems like too much hard work, and it’s surely too obvious – but a good crew, in a sleepy casino, can easily steal a couple of grand a week before moving onto their next score. In a city with ten casinos, this small-time scam can go on for years.
Predictive roulette computers have had a lot of coverage in the press recently, due to some big blags where the participants were actually caught. Since the technology emerged in the early 1980s, it was only a matter of time before someone used it to defraud a casino or two. Nevada was quick to introduce some serious punishments for anyone caught with a computer inside a casino, but Europe has been slower to catch up, so some gangs are taking advantage of the situation. They use lasers and tiny computers to scan where the ball is in relation to the wheel, and then ask it to predict the section of the wheel where the ball will land. Nowadays, these little gadgets are readily available on the internet or in specialist computer stores, although they require a punishing £10,000 outlay. As long as the crooks aren’t too greedy – big wins attract major casino heat – it’s quite possible to win a few grand a week, from a different casino each week, indefinitely.
Past-posting means adding chips to a number or box after the result has been concluded. It must be done quickly, smoothly and surreptitiously, and it takes both skill and nerve. However, it can be done: you’ll be surprised how often a dealer or inspector glances briefly away from the table – to see where the ball has landed, for example – and that is when the thief makes his move. On the blackjack table, the scamster will sit in the first box and add an extra chip when the dealer goes to pay out the seventh box. A good thief moving around various casinos can easily make £200 a night from this move, which adds up to about £50,000 a year, tax free of course. If you ever wondered why other people cheat, now you know.
Switching an entire shoe at the blackjack table is one of the boldest but most lucrative moves a gang can make. First, the gang gradually take all the seats around a table. When the dealer and inspector are momentarily distracted, the switch is made and a member of the gang scoots out of the premises with the casino’s shoe. The gang then play to the maximum, and the dealer busts every single time – even with a box maximum of £500, the crew can win £50,000 from that one shoe. Previously, of course, a different member of the crew would have cased the joint, and then acquired the same equipment as the casino.
Finally, let’s look at one other method of beating the system, but in this case, it’s not the casinos who are the target, but the Inland Revenue. The difference with this particular scam is that it’s almost impossible to be caught. All they do to turn black money white is walk into a casino, go to, say, ten separate tables, and buy £100 of chips from each one.
When they have their £1,000 of chips, they go to the cash-desk and get a cheque. They can then bank that cheque, all tax free, and tell the tax man, should he ever enquire, that their business isn’t making any money, but they’ve been doing rather well in the casino. Everyone in the know has been doing precisely that – unchallenged – for years.